Student endures parents’ ‘murder-suicide’
Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the alleged murder-suicide of SFU criminology student Cristina Pastia’s parents while they were travelling in their homeland, Romania.
On Sept. 18, Pastia will receive the Terry Fox Gold Medal, awarded annually at the start of the SFU Terry Fox Walk/Run to a student who demonstrates courage in the face of adversity.
An only child with no other family living in Canada, Pastia was just 20 when she learned of her parents’ deaths.
She endured terrible shock and grief, but also a long, lonely and, she says, “ugly” battle with the Romanian justice system over the cause of her parents’ death and the documentation required for their funerals and disposition of their estates.
She initially maintained her course load and grades during that fall semester. But by the following spring she realized she needed time to grieve and overcome her stress so she postponed her education for a year.
“I read books and looked on websites for grief counselling,” she says, “but I was frustrated with their sappy therapy-voiced tone.”
Instead, she found solace in helping others, volunteering with the Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW) Rape Crisis Centre, where she answered calls on the crisis line.
She also began volunteering with BC Victims of Homicide, working on administrative projects such as preparing practical guidelines about death benefits for victims.
She returned to university in Sept. 2011 and graduated last semester with an honours BA. She says her experience has changed her career goal of becoming a lawyer.
“After my parents died, I found it a lot more important to be on the ground and working with people,” she says.
She began a master’s degree in criminology this month and plans a career in victim services.
Says her nominator, criminology professor Gail Anderson, “Cristina is an extremely strong and inspirational person and, like Terry Fox, has turned her own pain into helping others.”